Waiting for someone else to get the job done has never been part of Willie Jackson’s style.
Already a union rep by the time he was 18, the former leader of Mana Motuhake and renowned broadcaster, Willie Jackson is still committed to providing a voice for those who need it, and for going into battle on their behalf if need be.
“I can’t stand bullying of any kind,” Jackson told express from his Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA) offices in Papatoetoe recently.
“Do you want me to just sit back and do nothing? Because I can’t do that.”
No stranger to politics, Jackson will be standing as a list candidate for the Labour Party in this year’s election.
“I’m worried in terms of resources being allocated for Māori,” Jackson says. “We have had some good policies over the line in the past few years, but the budgets and resources being allocated are still not good enough. We don’t want people to be dependent on the state but we do want people to be helped by the agencies that are supposed to help them.”
Jackson says it was humbling to be approached by Labour leader, Andrew Little, and asked to stand but it wasn’t difficult to agree to stand.
“I like his commitment, his humanity. I’m impressed that he wants to make an effort for Māori – particularly in the city.”
“You have a choice in life, you can change or you stay an idiot. It’s about education and getting educated – whoever you are.”
Although driven, both by his own admission and by what is good for Māori whether it comes from the left or the right, Jackson doesn’t deny his approach is underpinned by a strong left wing philosophy.
“I’ve always held a traditional view and I think Labour espouses that same view, so it’s a good fit. I bring a lot of experience at an urban level and a lot more media and communication experience than many of the Māori candidates who are standing.”
Jackson’s candidacy has not been without criticism, including from within the Labour Party. Poto Williams, the Labour Party spokesperson for family and sexual violence, expressed concern over the nomination in light of some of Jackson’s comments regarding the 2013 ‘roast busters’ scandal. Comments made by Jackson and fellow broadcaster John Tamihere resulted in the pair being suspended and accused of supporting rape culture. Jackson has since apologized on multiple occasions and Williams has publically given him her support. No stranger to controversy, either as a broadcaster or as a politician, Jackson doesn’t deny he’s made mistakes, but also points out that his mistakes have helped him to grow and change.
“You have a choice in life,” Jackson says, “you can change or you stay an idiot. It’s about education and getting educated – whoever you are.”
Housing policy, particularly that which has an impact on his South Auckland catchment, is his highest priority.
“We have to make housing available. We can’t keep expecting our marae to simply turn into shelters and provide support for those in need. Our local marae did a wonderful job last winter but they aren’t funded to do that. It isn’t their role to provide that kind of assistance for people in need – that’s the Government’s job.”
Alongside the fight for urban Māori, Jackson sees the fight for LGBT+ rights as being an integral and vital part of what Labour has on offer.
“I supported the Civil Union Bill and the marriage equality bill. There is no doubt, however, that in this country, members of the LGBT+ community are discriminated against and I will continue to provide a voice for any person who is missing out and being sidelined. We have to look after everyone.”
Jackson makes no apology for standing up for anybody in any sector of society who needs his voice and will make sure that voice is heard, no matter what.
“I will work with whoever I must if it means we are advancing and changing lives.”